Traditional English Christmas Cake Recipe

My great aunty Jenny
My great aunty Jenny | Source

My Great Aunty Jenny's Christmas Cake Recipe

Every family has its own traditions, and non more so than a round Christmas. The tree decoration that came out year after year, the bowls of nuts on the sideboard, and the Christmas cake with icing and the well-used cake decorations.

When I was a child it was my great aunt who made all the family Christmas and birthday cakes. These were rich, moist, heavy fruit cakes laced with alcohol and groaning with fruit. The cake was then covered in marzipan and iced. It would then be served with cheese with Christmas day tea and given as a New Year Gift to the first footers.

Find out more about English Christmas Cake traditions in a Northumberland family.

Christmas cake ingredients. I forgot to add baking powder and vinegar. Also had to substitute prunes for currants.
Christmas cake ingredients. I forgot to add baking powder and vinegar. Also had to substitute prunes for currants. | Source

Ingredients

  • 350g or 3/4 lb Butter or margarine
  • 350g or 3/4 lb Brown sugar
  • 450g or 1 lb Plain flour
  • 450g or 1 lb Currants (I used extra sultanas and prunes as I can't get currants in France)
  • 450g or 1 lb Sultanas
  • 100g or 1/4 lb Mixed peel
  • 100g or 1/4 lb Ground almonds
  • 50g or 2 oz Whole almonds chopped plus about 50 whole almonds to decorate
  • 1 teaspoon Baking powder
  • 5 - 6 eggs depending on size
  • 100g or 1/4 lb halved glacé cherries
  • Drop of vinegar
  • 1 dessert spoon of black treacle or golden syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond essence and lemon essence
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
  • Brandy, sherry, rum, whisky or similar


You will also need

  • A large mixing bowl
  • Various of other large bowls
  • A wooden spoon
  • A 10 inch or 25cm diameter cake tin
  • A flat baking tray if your cake tin doesn't have a base
  • A cooling tray
  • Baking paper and brown paper to line the cake tin

I have a bottomless cake tin with a kind of lock. It seems that this is called a Spring-form tin! (You can see that I'm NOT a Domestic Goddess, and why I call myself a 'Rustic Cook'!). I put this onto a flat baking tray. If you can produce these two little goodies, it will help you get out what is a very large cake in one piece. The spring-form tin opens up so that you can take it off like a collar and then you can slide the cake off the baking tray and onto a cooling rack.

Warm the butter and sugar
Warm the butter and sugar | Source
Cream butter and sugar
Cream butter and sugar | Source
Add eggs, flour, almonds, baking powder, fruit and nuts
Add eggs, flour, almonds, baking powder, fruit and nuts | Source
Decorate with almonds and put into a very cool oven
Decorate with almonds and put into a very cool oven | Source

Method

This is the method, dictated to me over the phone by my mother. It was a bit sketchy, but I've tried to fill in the blanks.

  1. Soak the dried fruit in wine overnight. (I used red wine)
  2. Grease and line a 10" or 25cm diameter cake tin. Use 4 or 5 layers of grease proof paper and a layer of brown paper. See here how to do it: How to line a cake tin
  3. Cream the butter and sugar. This means stirring and 'squashing' the sugar into the butter and then stirring it hard and fast until the mixture is creamy. It helps,( a lot), if you warm the bowl and butter. I put mine over the stove, but you could heat the oven a little and put it in there. Be very careful, though, not to melt the butter
  4. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl
  5. Mix the flour, baking powder and ground almonds and spices in another bowl
  6. Then add a little of the egg to the creamed butter and then a little of the flour mix stirring them in well. Continue to add these alternately until you have mixed half
  7. Drain the fruit and add to the mixture along with the peel and chopped almonds
  8. Continue to stir
  9. Add the almond essence, lemon essence, vinegar and black treacle or golden syrup
  10. Put the mixture into the lined cake tin
  11. Pour boiling water over the whole almonds and leave to soak for about 15 minutes, then remove the skins and arrange on top as shown in the picture
  12. Bake in a cool oven gas mark 1, 140°c or 275°F, for about three hours. Keep checking and when the top looks solid, test with a skewer. Put the skewer into the centre of the cake, it is ready when it comes out clean.
  13. If the top looks as if it is browning too much, cover with foil or baking paper

Aunty Jenny holding - yes, it's me!
Aunty Jenny holding - yes, it's me! | Source
This is EXACTLY how we used to decorate our cakes, except that we smoothed the icing
This is EXACTLY how we used to decorate our cakes, except that we smoothed the icing | Source

When the cake is cooked

When the cake is cooked you are ready for stage two.

Take it very carefully out of the tin and peel off the baking paper. It might be better to leave it a little to solidify. Then let it cool on a wire rack.

When it is completely cool, wrap the cake in foil and store it in an airtight tin in a cool place.

Feeding the cake

Still not the end of the story. After a week or so take out your cake and make several holes with a skewer. Carefully pour your brandy (or other choice of spirit) into these holes. Repeat every week until Christmas. In our house we always used brandy.

Decorating the cake

My mother used to decorate our Christmas cake. First a layer of marmalade was spread over the top of the cake, then a layer of marzipan. A layer of royal icing roughly spread with a knife and pulled into little peaks was added and then on with our family cake decorations. Now we are too old, too fat and too worried about diabetes to load our cake with all of that. We will probably just eat it 'nude', but you could also decorate it with sugared fruit and nuts.

Serving

The cake would be served with sherry and a slice of hard cheese like Cheddar for Christmas day tea, (that was five or six O'clock in the afternoon for our family), but it was a big cake and would be served to guests and visitors. It was especially useful as a 'New Year's Gift' for the 'First Footers', when, just after the stroke of midnight on the 31st December, a piece of Christmas cake, cheese, a slice of rice loaf and a glass of sherry would be offered to that 'tall, dark and handsome stranger' who would be the bearer of luck for the coming New Year. (See 'Christmas Cake Traditions, link in the introduction above).

The Christmas Jokes

One traditional aspect of Christmas is the joke in the cracker. I just heard this joke on the radio:

Q: "what happened to the raisin that drowned in the Christmas cake?"

A: "He was pulled under by a strong currant."

Here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


Students sketching at the Roman site, Casinomagus, at Chassenon; about ten minutes from Les Trois Chenes.
Students sketching at the Roman site, Casinomagus, at Chassenon; about ten minutes from Les Trois Chenes. | Source

Limousin is fabulous at Christmas

Why not visit Limousin over the Christmas break? A great place to do your Christmas shopping in the Limoges porcelain factory shops or at the many Christmas markets. Snip up Limousin speciality foods for Christmas like a whole ham, chestnut liqueur, duck liver pate and many other gorgeous specialities.




How to find Les Trois Chenes art courses, guest house and holiday cottage

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Comments 7 comments

Les Trois Chenes profile image

Les Trois Chenes 4 weeks ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France Author

Thanks for leaving a seasonal comment on my Christmas cake hub, Glenis.


Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis Rix 7 weeks ago from UK

I'm about to make my Christmas cake. Will feed it with a spoonful of whisky once each week until it's time to ice it.

I have many happy memories associated with festive foods. Like you, I've written a Hub about them


Les Trois Chenes profile image

Les Trois Chenes 2 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France Author

Not long now until we begin to think about making a cake for Christmas 2015!


DuaneJ profile image

DuaneJ 2 years ago

I love a good Christmas cake!


malhota profile image

malhota 4 years ago from Portugal

Sounds delicious... I'll definitely try this recipe!


Les Trois Chenes profile image

Les Trois Chenes 6 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France Author

Many thanks Pamela99. It is delicious! Slip in the editing - we started to eat the cake on Christmas day, but it would last into the New Year for the 'First Footers' and New Year visitors.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Your cake sounds very different from anything I have made but it sounds delicious. I like the way you have to work on it for some days and then serve it at midnight on New Years eve.

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